Robert van den Ouden sets a brisk pace as he strides through Willowbrook Shopping Centre.
It is early in the morning and most of the stores have yet to open, but a small group of walkers – members of the Willowbrook Walking club – are getting their exercise.
“I do four kilometres a day, depending on how I feel,” the 73-year-old van den Ouden explains.
He lives near the Surrey-Langley border and has been exercising at the shopping centre for about two years.
Like other club members, van den Ouden is wearing a pass on a lanyard around his neck, so security guards know he’s allowed.
Every walker, it seems, has a different approach, with some going by the clock and walking for a set time, while others use a smart watch to count steps and some do it by distance travelled.
And some, like club coordinator Dixie Platt, base it on what their feet are telling them.
“As long as my legs hold up,” laughed Platt, 78, a Langley City resident who has been walking at Willowbrook for 11 years.
As far as current members know the club has been around just about as long as the shopping centre has.
Bonnie Caullen, 73, a Willowbrook area resident, took up indoor walking about five years ago and usually aims for about 6,000 steps, measured by her smart watch.
“I’ve got two stents and a pacemaker, and I do this seven days a week,” Caullen related.
“I like it because you’re in a group and they keep you motivated,” she added.
Platt agreed, calling walking “the cheapest and best exercise for anyone.”
Willowbrook Shopping Centre is located at 19705 Fraser Hwy., and walkers are asked to register by phoning 604-530-4492. or visiting the concierge desk. It costs $10 a year.
Willowbrook is one of four Langley locations offering indoor walking.
Another exists at the Langley Events Centre (LEC).
The main concourse is open to walker most mornings – when there is no ticketed event being held.
Willoughby residents Horst and Ingeborg Lange, who are 88 and 78, are among the regulars at LEC.
Horst goes at a slower pace than Ingeborg, but keeps at it until he gets at least 16 laps in.
“I had two knee replacements,” he explained.
Ingeborg is a firm believer in the value of exercise.
“Keep on walking,” she advised a visitor.
“It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow, keep moving. That’s the secret in life.”
Raymond Kleiner, 61, comes in from Clayton Heights to walk in the controlled conditions of the LEC.
“There’s no weather to deal with, there’s no wind,” Kleiner commented.
“There’s no hills, no cars.”
Langley Events Centre, at 7888 200th St., is free to walkers and usually open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. but hours can vary depending on other events being held. Check the LEC website or phone 604-882-8800 (extension 2) Mondays through Fridays, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to check availability. Running is only permitted from 6 to 8 a.m. and 8 to 10 p.m.
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On Walk BC, a website devoted to promoting the exercise, benefits of increasing physical activity through walking are associated with reducing the risk of coronary heart disease; lowering blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol and body fat, enhancing mental well being, increasing bone density, reducing the risk of cancer of the colon, controlling body weight, helping osteoarthritis, and improving flexibility and coordination.
A recent study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found walking and running were equally effective at managing cardiovascular health.
A University of Georgia study reported regular walking reduced elderly adults’ risk of developing a physical disability by 41 per cent, and a British study found walking 25 minutes a day added seven years to participants’ lifespans.
Other walking tracks exist at recreation facilities in Langley City and downtown Aldergrove.
Timms Community Centre in Langley City is located at 20399 Douglas Cres. It has a walking track that is open Mondays to Fridays, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays and holidays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For $10 a year per individual, walkers also get access to the centre games room. Register by bringing identification to the main reception desk.
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At the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre, situated at 27032 Fraser Hwy., admission is free, but walkers are also asked to register for a walking pass, which allow staff to track usage. It is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.